Many see the EU as a liberal democracy but it’s divisive policies are leading to a resurgence of far right and anti-democratic right wing parties. These parties threaten EU cohesion, tolerance and democracy. Listen to the real EU political scene uncovered in “Brexit and an illiberal Europe”. This podcast was broadcast before Merkel’s disastrous election results.
Far right parties and anti-democratic governments are on the rise across the EU. This rise in popularity is driven by fear of immigration, fear of losing independence through integration and fear of losing national identity. These fears are all fuelled by EU principles on migration and integration. As the EU has no plans to change these principles, but to do more of the same, it is logical to conclude that the rise in the popularity of the far right will continue.
Few of us can not have been shocked by the anti-migrant feelings expressed in Germany when many of the towns folk took to the streets of Chemnitz. For three days foreigners dare nor leave their houses for fear of abuse or violence.
Hate crimes are on the rise across the EU, including the UK. In Germany houses of migrants have been fire bombed. In Sweden mosques have been defaced and refugee centres set on fire. In Italy migrants have been beaten, stabbed and shot.
Distribution across the EU
The map below shows the distribution and size of the main parties. It doesn’t include the Spanish Vox party which gained 12 seats in Andalucía’s 109-seat parliament after the map was published. Neither does it highlight anti-democratic governments, such as the one in Poland where they recently took away the independence of the judiciary, or in Hungary where the government faces EU sanctions for the consistent erosion of the rule of law, or in Romania where the government attempted to decriminalise corruption up to £30,000 so it’s MPs wouldn’t face prosecution.
The graph below plots the average European far right (FR) vote from 1999 to 2014. The average European extremist right (ER) vote share has exhibited a constant to slightly increasing course. The populist radical right (PRR) and FR vote on the other hand, exhibit a clear upwards trend with the latter starting at 5% in 1999 and tripling to 15% by the end of the period in question.
If we look at elections to the European Parliament we see a similar pattern.
Influence in the EU parliament
The EUs strongest centre ground influences, Merkel and Macron, are collapsing in the poles, and the French National Front are now more likely to gain seats in the EU Parliament than Macrons’s LREM. Reuters reports that in a recent polls far right and populist parties who are hostile to deeper EU integration are set to win 20% of the seats in the European Parliament in Mays European elections. This is not enough to push for any big changes but enough to challenge the established parties and crack open internal divisions. They will certainly have an influence on the laws and policies that will govern the UK, should we cancel Brexit.
To increase their power the far right parties have banded together to form the Movement for a Europe of Nations and Freedom. Amongst their core principles are Sovereignty – they reject integration into a super state, Identity – protection of identity through control of immigration, and Specicifity – protection of unique economic, social, cultural and territorial models. These three principles all go against the EU’s desire to integrate and open borders. This is another significant pressure that will hinder the European Project and possibly de-rail it.
The threat to peace
For the EU to guarantee peace in Europe it has to guarantee stability. The continued rise of the far-right puts that stability in serious jeopardy.
The far right in the UK
As yet we do not have popular far-right parties in the UK. But the fears that have turned voters towards the far-right on the continent are also at play here. It is a disturbing turn of events that UKIP’s new leader Gerrard Batten has decided to hire Tommy Robinson as an advisor. It can be seen as a move to garner the votes of right wing extremists, thus giving them an unwelcome voice in the UK’s political arena. If Brexit is overturned by the Peoples Vote or parliament, the resulting sense of betrayal will see a significant move away from the mainstream parties. UKIP and their new extremist colleagues have set themselves up to be the beneficiary of that decision.